Health | The latest blogs, articles & guides from our best storytellers

Worrisome wives tales: six sayings from your parents that are false

4 min read
9 Oct 2020
Old wives tales: fact or fiction?

It may come as a shock, but many of the common old wives tales that we heard from our parents growing up are actually false. Cracking your knuckles won’t really give you arthritis, nor will being cold make you sick. have created an infographic that examines seven common old wives tales to determine which ones hold some genuine truth, and which are simply myths that were likely used as a way to keep us in line.

Eating carrots will give you night vision

You’ve likely heard a variation of this tale at some point in your life; perhaps from your parents in a frustrated attempt to get you to eat your veggies. It’s an interesting premise because while carrots do not actually give you night vision, they do provide some eye health benefits.[1] Carrots are packed full on beta-carotene, which your body converts into Vitamin A and uses to keep your eyes healthy.

Eating carrots will not give you night vision.

Urinating on a jellyfish sting helps with the pain

If you’ve been in the unfortunate position of either the one who released the flow or the one who received the stream, you might get a little red-faced after you find out this tale is also false. It’s actually advised not to urinate on a jellyfish sting.[2] For bluebottle (Portuguese man o’ war) and other minor jellyfish stings, Healthdirect Australia recommends washing the sting with seawater, carefully removing any tentacles from the skin and running the affected area under hot water.[3]

Urinating on a jellyfish sting will not help with the pain.

Cracking your knuckles will give you arthritis

You’ve probably either had this tale barked at you, or been the one telling someone off. Knuckle crackers can proceed with pleasure, however, because cracking your knuckles does not cause arthritis in your fingers.[4] Several studies have been done on this myth, including one by a researcher who spent 60 years cracking the knuckles on one hand but not the other to see if arthritis developed in either hand (it did not; both his cracked and uncracked fingers were arthritis-free). Knuckle cracking is usually caused by air bubbles forming in the synovial fluid between the joints, which then burst.

Cracking your knuckles will not give you arthritis.

The five-second rule

Although not quite a wives tale, the belief that you can drop your food on the ground and have five seconds to quickly pick it up and eat it is unfortunately false. The time spent on your food matters very little to bacteria; they’ll crawl onto it as soon as it hits the floor.[5]

The five second rule is false.

You’ll catch a cold if you are cold

For those who often go to bed with wet hair or forget to bring their scarf on a cold day, you’ll be glad to hear that this old wives tale is actually false. Although it’s true that colds and flu are more common during the winter months, it’s not the temperature itself that causes symptoms. Colds and flu are caused by viruses,[6] and colder days create perfect virus-spreading conditions. People spend more time indoors and around other people when it’s cold out, meaning there is a better chance for viruses to spread by means of coughing and sneezing.[7]

You will not catch a cold if you are cold.

You lose most of your body heat through your head

Another dire warning parents give to their children who forget their beanie is that people lose most of the body heat through their head. This is false. The truth is that you can lose heat through any part of your body that’s exposed to the elements.[8] Your head wouldn’t lose any more heat than your abdomen would if they were both exposed to the cold.

You do not lose most of your body heat through your head.

Chicken soup is good for a cold

It’s a very common tale that transcends cultures, and it must be for good reason. This old wives tale is true – to an extent. Chicken soup can’t treat or cure your cold, but it can help to relieve symptoms.[9] Soups can be easier to eat when you have a sore throat, and the liquid can be hydrating. Inhaling the warm steam coming from your bowl could also help clear nasal mucous.

Chicken soup can help to relieve symptoms of a cold.

Visit to see the full list of common wives tales that have been debunked or proven true.


[1] Victoria State Government – Carrots:
[2] Healthdirect – Sea Creature stings:
[3] Healthdirect – Jellyfish stings:
[4] The Conversation – What makes joints pop and crack and is it a sign of disease?:
[5] Queensland Government – Here’s why the five second rule is just an urban myth:
[6] Healthdirect – Flu Vaccine FAQs:
[7] Healthdirect – Cold or flu?:
[8] Victoria State Government – Hypothermia:
[9] Healthdirect – How to supercharge your soup this winter:

Did you find this article interesting or helpful?
avatar of author: Hannah Norton

Written by Hannah Norton

Hannah is the Digital PR Manager at Compare the Market and is a fan of all things that challenge the mind; be it jigsaw puzzles, reading as many novels as she can fit into a day, or trying to beat her existing personal best for solving a Rubik's Cube. As well as enjoying nature hikes and other outdoor activities, Hannah is a passionate animal lover and you can almost always find her down at the beach with her furry, four-legged friends.

[email protected]

Read more from Hannah